Category Archives: Debating Society
Major General Sir Nevill Maskelyne Smyth was a member of Grant’s House from 1882 until 1885. He went on to Sandhurst and began his career in the Army.
In 1898 he took part in the Battle of Omdurman in Sudan. Towards the end of the battle an enemy fighter attempted to attack two journalists who were part of the camp. Smyth galloped forward and although severely wounded by a spear in his arm, managed to shoot the man dead. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for his conspicuous bravery.
On the outbreak of the First World War Smyth was once again in the Sudan, working in the Khartoum district where he was active in combating the slave-trade. He was among several senior officers sent by Lord Kitchener to the Dardanelles as part of the Gallipoli campaign. He commanded the 1st Australian Infantry Brigade as a temporary brigadier-general at the Battle of Lone Pine and was one of the last officers to leave the peninsula.
He was mentioned in despatches on 29th January:
High praise is due to Brigadier-General N. M. Smyth and to his battalion commanders. The irresistible dash and daring of officers and men in the initial charge were a glory to Australia. The stout heartedness with which they clung to the captured ground in spite of fatigue, severe losses, and the continual strain of shell fire and bomb attacks may seem less striking to the civilian; it is even more admirable to the soldier.
Percival Ernest Knapp attended Westminster school for over four years. He was admitted as a Queen’s Scholar and, whilst academically very able, came from a military family as was destined for a career in the army. During his time at school he was a keen debater and The Elizabethan records him speaking ‘in a very concise form’ against a motion to uphold the powers of the House of Lords. He also excelled at football as he was ‘very fast’ and ‘had a wonderful knack of getting round the backs’.
He left school in December 1892 and entered military training at Sandhurst. He served the army in India, seeing action in the Tirah campaign in 1897-8 and at the Battle of Peking in 1900 which followed the Boxer rebellion. He received medals from both conflicts. By 1912 he had been promoted to the rank of Major.
On the outbreak of war, Knapp served in Egypt but moved to fight in the Mesopotamia campaign in November 1915. He was killed in action at the Battle of Sheikh Sa’ad in an attack on the Ottoman Army.